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Book review - The Witch of Portobello - Paul Coelho

10 Votes | Average: 4.7 out of 510 Votes | Average: 4.7 out of 510 Votes | Average: 4.7 out of 510 Votes | Average: 4.7 out of 510 Votes | Average: 4.7 out of 5 (10 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
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The Witch of PortobelloHe called me up (in the tone of ‘this is a life and death issue’) – this news editor of one of India’s leading channels, to ask me whether I’d read Paulo Coelho’s latest bestseller – THE WITCH OF PORTOBELLO. I hadn’t. He said, “It’s mind-blowing.” I asked, “More than The Alchemist? More than The Eleven Minutes?” He said, “Much more! It’s incredibly amazing!”

Reading Paulo Coelho is like traveling with a higher soul on the journey of life.  The Pilgrimage, the first of his extraordinary books nudged his reader to think – What am I searching for? The Alchemist, became an inspiration for those seeking their path in life. The Zahir, a novel of obsession, a sweeping story of love, loss and longing took away the comfort factor that we surround our lives with, as a desperate celebrity, anguished over the pain of his missing wife. The Eleven Minutes was an ‘unflinching exploration of the lengths we go to in our search for love, sex and spirituality.

Now Coelho returns with yet another brilliant offering, an inner journey almost into the hidden power of our life as he fuses philosophy, religious miracle, love, fear of loss and a kind of moral parable. It is the story of Athena, an enigmatic young woman in Romania, raised in Beirut and living in London. A narrative taken from multiple points of view, (a chronicle of recollections and reflections by people who believed they knew Athena, who is dead as the book opens) the novel is a flashback rendition of events that lead to the flowering of Athena into a woman with immense powers and finally speeding towards her sudden end. 

The Portobello of the title is London’s Portobello Road, where Sherine Khalil who prefers to be called Athena, holds her worship meeting. Born in Transylvania and abandoned by her Romanian gypsy mother, Athena is adopted by wealthy Lebanese Christians who flee from Beirut to UK. Her early marriage to a man she meets at a London college and the birth of her son, Viorel, are followed by an untimely divorce, intensifying her feeling of being abandoned.

At a very early age, Athena recognizes and struggles with the gift of her magical gifts of being able to connect with the Mother, the female form of God and her uncanny prophetic powers which find expression through Hagia Sophia who emerges through Athena while dancing frenetically to the rhythm of percussion drums.

Spurred on by the visions that come to her, urging her to face certain  realities she has only been vaguely aware of, she begins her journey in search of acceptance, enlightenment and a more meaningful path in life. Soon she develops a cult-like following as a result of which she becomes the object of a modern day witch hunt that culminates in her murder.

Coelho’s storytelling craft reaches its zenith in this book as he relentlessly explores the crevices of the soul to come up with gems of observations that haunt us long after we have put the book aside.

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Responses to Book review - The Witch of Portobello - Paul Coelho

  1. 1 Mustafa Suphi Yilmaz

    Dear Jaya Ramesh,

    I found your article while surfing and showed to Paulo. He liked very much. We gonna publish it in Paulo’s official blog. I hope you like this idea.

    Mustafa Suphi Yilmaz

  2. 2 Aart

    Jaya Ramesh, hello! Paulo Coelho read your blog and posted your entry on his! come and check it:

  3. 3 Diya

    i think u have told the entire story in a nutshell..i think its better to leave some part unfinished for the readers to read from the book.. wats the fun if whole story is known from the review??

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